Monday, July 11, 2011

Forest Sector Legislations and Regulations in Ghana

Let’s continue with our journey through Ghana’s forest Management in this International Year of Forests. After looking at the policies, we have now reached the “Forest Sector Legislation and Regulations in Ghana”. Policies without backing legislation are good as not existing because the legislation gives life and meaning to the policy and also ensures a successful implementation of the policy. At this stage, let’s concern ourselves with some historical background to Ghana’s forest laws and some pre-independence regulations in the forest sector.

A Historical background
The first enactment with a bearing on forests was the Native Jurisdiction Ordinance, 1883. This ordinance empowered traditional councils to make bye-laws to protect water courses and conserve forests (Agbosu, 1983). The response from timber merchants to the likely threat of restrictions on forest harvests was an immediate large scale increase in timber harvest for use as fuel and props in the mines and for exports to Europe.

The colonial administration then came up with the Forest Reservation and water Courses Protection Ordinance in 1889. This ordinance was to protect forests but according to Agbosu (1983) it never came into force because of objection from timber firms, the middle class and traditional authorities. The objection to this regulation was mainly because people the timber firms, the middle class and traditional authorities foresaw a negative effect on their business and profits. Other Ordinances that followed included the Concessions Ordinance to govern the acquisition of timber concessions; and the abortive Timber Protection Ordinance which sought to regulate some aspects of the timber trade. They were vehemently objected to by both the British merchants and the local middle-classed because of their selfish economic/monetary considerations. After much back and forth and objections to forest bills, it was not until 1927 that the first forest statute was passed.

The Forest Ordinance, 1927 – Cap 157
Cap 157 led to the creation of forest reserves. The ordinance vested power in an appointment of a Reserve Settlement Commissioner (RSC). The commissioner had the authority to listen and judge on claims of rights over a proposed area. The judgement of the RSC informed the government in publishing the final order making an area a forest reserve.

The Forests (Amendment) Ordinance, 1954
In 1954, Cap 157 was amended and there came “The Forests (Amendment) Ordinance, 1954”. It concerned the procedures in an enquiry by the Reserve Settlement Commissioner in respect of rights of a proposed Forest Reserve and procedures with a native Court. Among the amendments included a new definition of “Native Court” and it also introduced a “Native Appeal Court”. A “Native court meant a court constituted under the provisions of any Ordinance, but, notwithstanding the provisions of any Ordinance to the contrary, shall not include such Native Court, when sitting as a “Native Appeal Court”. ' Native Appeal Court ' means a court constituted as a Native Appeal Court under the provisions of any Ordinance, and sitting as such. The ordinance provided for dispute resolution with respect to ownership of land in reserves and differentiated the roles of the Native Court, Native Appeal Court and the Reserve Settlement Commissioner.

So, the resistance to forest laws in Ghana has a long history. The selfish interests of timber merchants and national authorities have been at the centre of non-adherence to our forest laws and regulations. The forest has always been seen as an avenue to make money and this interest has made enforcement of forest laws and regulations very difficult. Agbosu (1983) in an analysis of the forest regulations during the colonial era points out that the provisions in all the ordinances clearly showed that the colonial government was interested in the revenue it will get rather than protecting the forests. In the end one may ask, what the use of regulations is when it cannot give any life to the policies. In actual fact, these laws may be seen to be killing the policies. In the end, do we make laws for making sake?

Weak legal and judicial systems – where laws are not enforced and non-compliance and corruption are the norm – undermine respect for the rule of law, engender environmental degradation, and undermine progress towards sustainable development